Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Top 10 Moments of 2011: A School Choice Retrospective

As the year comes to a close and we look toward creating even more educational options in 2012, let’s take a look back at what many are calling the banner year in school choice to see the top 10 moments in 2011:

10. Program Saved: Louisiana restored funding New Orleans’ Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program.  As special interests worked to defund this program, supporters that won’t stand for the status quo fought back, and demand for choice grows beyond the Big Easy. This vital program serves more than 1,600 low-income students stuck in failing schools.

9. Steps Forward: The Tar Heel State took a significant step toward empowering parents and giving educational options to students across North Carolina by enacting the Tax Credit for Children with Disabilities, which gives parents up to a $6,000 credit for sending their students to the school of their choice. The bill was supported by 65 percent of Democrats in the legislature. That’s not all; the state also removed its cap on charter schools!

8. A New Choice: Arizona began the year with three school choice programs, and in 2011, the Grand Canyon State created a brand new type of school choice program.  With Empowerment Scholarships Accounts (also called education savings accounts), education dollars truly follow the child in this program designed for children with special needs.

7. Progress, Progress, Progress: The Buckeye state creating a new program and expanded two existing ones this year.  Ohio created the Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program named after a 2011 Champion for School Choice award recipient, quadrupled the number of Educational Choice Scholarships, and increased the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program scholarship amounts. 

6. Support from the Court: The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that scholarship tax credit programs were constitutional. Families across eight states can breathe a sigh of relief with the knowledge that their programs are safe.

5. An Oldie but a Goodie: The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the longest running voucher program was expanded to allow more students to participate.  And the legislature created a “Once In, Always In” provision thanks to Representative Jason Fields (D), which helps families remain in the program.

4. Let’s Rally: There’s nothing more inspiring, and nothing tells our elected officials to support school choice more than seeing the students, parents, and advocates rallying for legislation that will create real change in our children’s lives.  This year, school choice supporters rallied in New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and many more!

3. Hope with a Capital “H”: The reauthorization and strengthening of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.  With Speaker John Boehner and Senator Joe Lieberman leading the charge, the program was restored and expanded.  And that’s not all—more than 1,600 students enrolled private schools thanks to the program—a 60 percent increase over last year.

2. The Broadest Program: The creation of the nation’s broadest voucher program in Indiana!  The Choice Scholarship Program provides scholarships to low- and middle-income students across the Hoosier State.  And implementation of this program was a great success, with almost 4,000 students participating in the program’s first year.

1. You! Yes, that’s right.  School choice supports have made 2011 the banner year for school choice.  In rallying, calling on elected officials to act, writing letters to the editors, and working to push pass the status quo, education reform saw more supporters call for real change than ever before!
2011 certainly was a great year.  With seven new programs and 11 expanded programs, we’re fired up to take on 2012 and bring even more educational options to families across the nation. 

Stay tuned in 2012 as School Choice Now! brings you updated information on our 27 school choice programs and legislation introduced in state legislatures across the nation.

Happy New Year!

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

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